You didn’t let me know
you would just turn the browned bronze knob and
open the creaking door,
look at me,
worry smeared on your face like
eye liner smeared on a crying mother
surrounded by tangled chestnut locks
bedraggled from a night of fretting.
Skull in my bony grip I fight this shrew of a hangover,
sweating out Irish whiskey, India pale ales, juniper and quinine.
The house and I reek of booze.
Brown glass beer bottle with a yellow label
teeters on the counter’s edge.
I look up at you and smirk.
“Come on. Laugh,” I chide, exhaling
a bull alligator’s laugh muted in my nose.
I taste and smell like shit.
Russet knit scarf – a checkered flannel –
covers the coffee-stained waffle undershirt
your father slept in for thirty falls and winters.
I know the threadbare sleeve ends
formed by yours and his woolgathering.
The tattered frays match your
Expertly chewed fingernails,
exhibits prepped for feature in a freak show museum,
gnarled like wood gouged by a broken awl.
This fashion, I know, signals serious discussions,
defensive diversions, inquiries into interstices
stitched with inky uncertainty and second guesses.
Why I know that is no matter of speculation:
the matter matters because
you always make it matter to me.
“Yes. Yes. Your dad’s ashes are proceeding,”
I say to remind you that I know.
“Yes. We know.”
You love the royal “we” so much.
Drunk as I still am, I see
you are doing that thing, that
thing when you rub the middle index finger’s pad
against the bare remnant of your pointer’s nail.
“You really are upset aren’t you?” I ask.
You tuck a lock behind your ear
With a wooden golem’s deliberation
I stagger to the sink and chug a
still-full glass lemonade.
“It’s morning and I’m still drunk you know?”
Of course you know.
I smell like shit.
Nine hours of heavenless sleep
oozes out my pores, films my teeth,
stains my work shirt, my jeans filthy
from who knows.
“I’m sure you’d like to know who was
“But it doesn’t matter to me.
We would only pretend it matters.”
This ruse never works,
this dodge that makes me hold myself up,
teetering like the bottle on the shelf.
“Come on,” you say, and reach with a mittened hand.
The cleansing is never enough.
In your four-wheel drive ’88 Ford pickup
cold glass palliates thudding temples.
Window down the turbulent air forces a
momentary struggle for breath.
I’d like to say it made me alert but
I’d be lying.
“You’re smiling over there.
I see it.”
You were smiling.
Turn up the Public Works Administration road
built to help fight the fires. Now they
just provide recreational access or
avenues for smoking weed, vandalism,
“I don’t want woods,” I say.
“Why always woods?”
Billy Corrigan responds instead of you:
“Forgotten and absorbed
into the Earth
We turn the county’s tightest switchback
curving in a complete acute angle
a black rat snake turning back to escape
“Why are you smiling?.
“You’re so fucking annoying.”
“I said, why always woods?”
I know how you think.
You think this place in its placid purity
can shame me into loving myself
or some other
“Bah,” I say and watch ferns blur by.
You hand me the quilt your aunt made you.
Bands and patches that mean Chattaqua –
or is it Conemaugh? – I don’t recall.
I sit in the cold cabin, feet up on the chair
Below dry oak rafters, grain gone gray
like men with canes whose beards
blow in the autumn air.
You make eggs over hard.
A pot of coffee.
The arms of the chair
await your words of rescue.
under shaking hands
But I don’t wait much.
I open the back door,
greeted by frozen airborne must and loam,
and look up the mountain.
Across another part of Laurel Run
the ridge’s quilt of snow, stone, and bush
a rifle shot peals.
I see the doe fall from her jump
crashing headfirst into the laurel.
She kicks and bucks,
spraying the snow
red at her breast
her lung surely punctured
she lays down her head
almond eyes resting in peace
upon the Earth
recognized and absorbed
into the Earth